Sunday, May 12, 2019

Cruising Alaska: Royal Princess Sea Day

Well, that was unexpected.

I woke up this morning expecting to see land on both sides. Beautiful scenery. Trees and mountains and maybe a whale or two. Yet none of it was there. What the heck? We've done this itinerary multiple times and this is usually one of the days full of natural beauty. I turned on the ship's location screen on the TV to get my bearings on what was going on and saw this:
That might not look like anything that important, but usually when we leave from Vancouver and head north to Alaska we take the beautiful scenic route I've marked in red below. Believe me, the difference between those two routes is huge.

I was a bit sad. I was looking forward to grabbing my computer, sitting near a window and typing, and looking at the beauty all around. But it was not to be. I don't know if this will always be the path the Royal takes (maybe because of its larger size?) but it was a surprise, and not in a good way. By mid-afternoon we were back on course. 

It was a good day. We were able to visit with our dear crew member we came to visit and even ran into one of the gals who used to work in International Cafe that took such good care of hubby in the past. She's on to a junior waiter position too so no more IC for hubby. However, he never worries about the quality of coffee when we're on the Royal. They have real ground coffee for free in the buffet. (Unlike most Princess ships that have coffee made from a concentrate. He can't stand that stuff.)  

I had to make a stop at the Internet Cafe today to get my free minutes straightened out. We applied hubby's free minutes to the unlimited plan but I decided to keep my minutes to use. It showed I had 250 minutes instead of the 150 I should have for a seven day cruise. They had automatically given me 250 for the 14 days we are on. But we are technically on two seven day cruises so I actually should have had 300 minutes to use. The manager said he couldn't (or maybe wouldn't?) do anything about it until the second leg of our cruise. So I'm using hubby's unlimited when he's not online and will deal with mine later. I'm sure there will be a time when we both will want to be on at the same time so I'll hold my minutes for that. (By the way, the MedallionNet internet speed on the Royal is so much better than last week's Ruby Princess sucky MedallionNet.)

I also had to stop by the Captain's Circle desk today. She was the first person this whole cruise (I know it's only been 24 hours) who greeted me by name by using the Medallion. (Well, after she called me by another lady's name who was in the same area. I'm guessing the system still needs some work?) I'm celebrating a milestone on the ship this week but hadn't received anything in my cabin about it so I wanted to see if my days from Ruby Princess had caught up with me. They hadn't. It's straightened out now and since we're on next week as well we will be celebrating the milestone then. What milestone? 500 days sailing on Princess. Woo hoo! 750 here I come. (Maybe?) While I was there she also gave me the invitation to the Most Traveled Guest party for tomorrow night. When I told hubby about the party he panicked a bit - he had sent out his only pair of dress pants to the laundry last night. He scrambled to get our cabin steward to chase them down and expedite the cleaning. They got on it and he is good to go. Whew. 

I put the Encouraging Words Project note and dollar in a sugar container in the buffet and also in the Wake Show Box. I'll be doing that each day again this trip. I'm always excited to see how the cruise director responds to the one in the Wake Show box. Some get the purpose of the encouraging words (I do a little write up and explain it to them) and some don't. Hubby watched the CD (Matt O is his name) in action today at different activities and was very impressed. He is authentic, engaging, high-energy, and loves what he's doing. He's definitely the best we've ever seen. And we've been on lots of cruises with Princess (like 500 days worth!) so we should know. 

We had breakfast and a mini-lunch at the buffet today. I've said this before, but the buffet here is just plain amazing. Multiple lines, multiple choices, good food and plenty of space to move about.

Here it is at 8 pm and I just realized tonight is formal night. Oops. While we could have headed back to the buffet for dinner, our cabin is at the very, very front of the ship, so it just didn't seem like it was worth the effort to put our shoes on to head to the very back of the ship. Room service it is.

We set our clocks back an hour tonight and arrive in Ketchikan at 6:30 in the morning tomorrow. Not sure what the day will hold yet. 

Until tomorrow...maybe...

North to Alaska: Royal Princess Embarkation Day

I really hadn't planned on doing a "live from" this go 'round - and I'm still not (I think) but I just can't seem to not to. There's so much to talk about on this particular embarkation day I guess I will do it. Just for today. Or maybe tomorrow too?

We started our pre-cruise night after our Ruby Princess trip (that cruise wrap-up can be found here) at the Pan Pacific. We originally had reservations at another hotel, but I had been watching rates at the Pan Pacific and they dropped significantly just a couple weeks back. Wound up being just a few dollars more than our other reservations, even. So Pan Pacific it was. 

It's so close to the cruise port. Like, it's right there. See the tall building next to the Ruby? Yep, that's the hotel.

One of the nice things about the Pan Pacific is they take your luggage to the cruise port for you. Press a button on the phone, the bellman comes up a few minutes later, and off it goes. You don't have to touch it again until it shows up at your cabin. Just awesome.

One of the other nice things about the day was our breakfast. We met up with Vickie and Bernie who were just disembarking the Royal after having been at sea for OVER FOUR MONTHS. Vickie and Bernie were passengers for part of the time and then Vickie was also the Destination Expert for the Royal's South American voyage. If you want to know about South America (actually, for a lot of other places, too), she's your gal. She's also a blogger. While she didn't blog while working for Princess, she does have a plethora of info at vickieandbernietravel. She also has a Facebook page. (I don't do Facebook, but she does have the link on her blog.) It was great to see them and hear about their adventures. 

Once off they went, off we went. We were so very excited we would get to use our Medallions to check in. We had filled out our order and had them mailed to the house ahead of time, took our pictures, uploaded the other pictures required, and scanned our passports into their system. We had the Medallion boarding pass ready on our phone. We also printed off the new Medallion boarding passes just in case, and also printed the old-type boarding passing as a double just in case. And that was a good thing we did the extra printing. They didn't allow the electronic pass. They wouldn't take the new printed pass. All these folks in their Medallion shirts at check in and we had to use our old standard printed boarding passes. It was a bit disappointing.
After check-in, in Vancouver you are funneled into the same security line and US Customs and Border Protection as the other ships in port. It was a two-ship day so the lines were long all the way through.
We couldn't figure what was the hold up when we got near the gangway. Only after we saw a frustrated couple turn around and stomp off, then overheard some arguing, and saw another port employee come over and talk to the gal checking documentation did we hear what was happening. The gal, who typically would check cruise cards to be sure you were authorized to be on that particular ship, was still asking for cruise cards. Cruise cards the Royal Princess passengers were no longer being issued. Only after the angry passengers were told to go back and get cards and after other passengers tried to tell her they didn't have cruise cards, did that other port employee show up and explain to her we only had Medallions. 

This was Vancouver's first experience with Medallions and it was a bit sloppy. I'm sure they'll get up to date soon. I do know they had a two hour training, and not all employees attended. In fact, I had someone who works at the port (who didn't attend the training) looking up videos on the internet to get up to speed. He came across my Medallion video from last year and used it as his training.

Looking for more information on the Medallion? I'm working on some new videos. I'll let ya know when I get them posted.

Once on the ship, I was thinking someone would pull up their tablet and call me by name. Nope. Lots of people in Medallions dress and Welcome Aboard dress with tablets talking to each other and smiling at guests, but no recognition. It's not like I care if anyone knows who I am, but I kind of thought that was part of the purpose of the Medallion.
There was a Medallion info session in the theater at 2:00. I was surprised to see not many people in attendance. If you weren't able to make it, there are several videos on the TV that are pretty similar to the videos in the presentation.

Something super-important to know about the Medallion... Your muster station information is not printed on it. You have to go to your cabin and look at the back of your door to get that information. When muster drill came around there were many wanderers and people in the wrong place. However, those who were in the right place were able to be scanned quickly. Just tap, wait until it turns green, and walk in.

We have to sit close to the top at muster because hubby has problems with the stairs. Can I just say people are pigs? Look what we found by our seats in the theater. A sideways cup that looked like it might have had a breakfast smoothie in it. And nearby a half eaten bowl of watermelon. Just gross.

We spent sailaway on the super-secret deck outside Facets. It's not that super-secret, but most people don't know about the doors that lead out there.

We also spent some time outside in the back of Horizon Court. We eventually called it quits around dinner time. And went straight back to the cabin. No dinner, no dessert, no midnight snack. 

Want to know the pricing for the Internet? Right here:
As Elite members we could keep our free minutes or apply them towards the package for another 25% off. Since it's baseball season and hubby just can't miss a game, we signed him up for the unlimited package. We're on for 14 days so it defaulted to the 14 day price. It's super fast and super worth it.
I'm not sure how frequently I'll be blogging from this trip. Guess when I have something to say, I will and when I don't, I won't. 

Royal Princess Alaskan Cruise Patters

Since we're doing the Northbound
and the Southbound voyages
on the Royal Princess to and from Alaska, I have both week's worth of Patters right here. I'll add them daily. (Apologies for the first couple and their blurriness. I'm finding the cabin lighting is problematic.)

Juneau - the arrival time is incorrect because of yesterday's tragedy in Ketchikan


Saturday, May 11, 2019

5 Things to Know about Inside Cabins

If you're trying to decide whether to stay in an inside interior cabin for your next cruise vacation, check out these five things you need to know before booking one.
5 things to know about cruise ship inside cabins

1. They are small.
The specific size depends on the cruise line and ship, but you might be calling 150 square feet your home for the week. A family of three or four would probably want to veer away from the inside cabins. Bunk beds anyone?

Despite the smaller size there is storage in drawers and cabinets and shelves and closets. Storage even exists under the bed. Take a peek - that’s not a box springs under the mattress.
Nesting suitcases will fit nicely there. Larger suitcases can be left opened and slid under the bed. Who knew underbed storage could be created with an open suitcase? 

2. They are dark.
The lighting of the cabin is more than sufficient – bright even – but once all lights are off it is dark. Very dark. Just leave the bathroom door slightly ajar to use as a nightlight.

3. They are inexpensive.
Interior cabins are typically the cheapest cabins on the ship. You'll get the same meals, entertainment, and ports of call as someone staying in a suite paying five to ten times as much. If you don't mind the dark room, save money on your cabin.

4. They make you get out and about and enjoy more of the ship.
Do you stay in your bedroom at home all day? Heck, no. So you'll find you won't be spending all day in your cabin on the ship, either. It'll force you to get out there and explore the ship, meet new people, or participate in activities. Want quiet? Find a nice place to sit that few people know about.

5. You'll sleep more.
An inside cabin is perfect for a restful and relaxing vacation with lots of naps and plenty of opportunities to sleep in. Without daylight to wake you up, it's easy to accidentally sleep in. Who wouldn't want that on their list of a dream vacation day? Sometimes we do tune into the ship's web cam on the TV so we would know when morning came.

If you aren't claustrophobic, inside cabins are a good value for your money. For us, cheaper cabins = more cruises.
5 things to know about cruise ship interior cabins

Ruby Princess California Coastal Cruise Wrap-Up

Hello from Vancouver, Canada! We stepped off the Ruby Princess yesterday and will be heading onto the Royal Princess today. Before I start thinking about the Royal, I'd like to wrap up our Ruby Princess trip.Even though I didn't do a "live from" during this past week's cruise, I did take notes about things happening around the ship. In no particular order of importance, here are some things to know about the Ruby Princess and the 5 day Los Angeles to Vancouver voyage:

This was a repositioning/California Coastal trip that was just 5 days long. The ship started in San Pedro, went to San Diego on Day 2, had two sea days, had a full day in Victoria, Canada, and then arrived in Vancouver the last day. 

We got a cheapo casino fare ($149 per person + port fees and taxes), paid $67 each for airfare, and received $175 in casino cash that we turned into $216. Our $100 loyalty credit plus our onboard credit from future cruise deposits left us only owing $5 in gratuities by the end of the cruise. We also received a free dinner in a specialty restaurant and two free drink coupons. (More info on that below.) Throw all those things in together and the trip was a pretty darn good deal.

We had booked an IF guarantee cabin and were upgraded to an IA cabin. We don't mind the inside cabins, and the way the weather turned out we wouldn't have been able to use the balcony anyway so I'm glad we had the cabin we did. Except...that cabin was hot. Like no air circulation. Maintenance fixed it - kind of. It still remained hot all week, but at least there was a small bit of circulation after they made their repairs. I guess better a super-warm cabin as opposed to the super-cold one we had on the Grand.

There were a couple surprises in the cabin we were pleased about. The ship now has the huge TVs in the corner. But unlike the other ships that are transitioning from the old TVs to the new, beautiful TVs and still have the same sucky TV programming, on the Ruby they now have the on-demand programming. Woo hoo! It was awesome. 

Something else we hadn't seen before is a light on the bottom shelf of the desk. It stayed off, but as soon as you started to walk by the corner, the light turned on. It was great to have a motion sensor light in an inside cabin for those night time bathroom runs.

Food & Drink: 
We ate our embarkation day lunch in the dining room but didn't eat any more meals there. The lines, especially for sea day lunches, were unbelievably long. Pub lunch was a super-crazy line, too. We don't do lines if we don't have to so we stuck to the buffet. It was the same old buffet layout and food, but they had a ramen station every night for dinner. Hubby was particularly happy about that. The buffet wasn't too busy and we never had problems finding a table to ourselves.

Since this was a short five day cruise, there was no Captain's Circle cocktail party. Instead we were each given a free drink coupon. Worked for us! There also wasn't a Most Traveled Guest Party. We received a letter in our cabin congratulating us for being one of the most traveled and the option to eat one night at Crown Grill, Share, or Salty Dog for free. We've done Salty Dog a couple times before on this ship during past cruises, Crown Grill a bunch of times on several ships across the Princess fleet, but had never ventured into Share. So guess what we chose?

Share was amazing! So much better than I had expected. The multi-course meal (6 courses!), the service, the atmosphere, the flavors, and the view? 
Oh, yeah. Even though I'm a steak girl and that's why we do the Crown Grill so much, I do believe Share will be taking its place when it can. (It's not available on all ships.)

I'm planning on doing a separate write-up on Share so if you're interested, keep an eye out here as I'll add a link right here.

With only two sea days and two full port days those sea days were crammed full.

Other things:
*There was only one formal night.

*We ran into a waiter and his cabin steward wife who we hadn't seen for a few years. She even sent flowers to our cabin once she found out we were onboard. So sweet, right? It's always nice to see - and catch up - with crew members.

*The Internet was horrendous. It was supposed to be the super-fast MedallionNet, but I can tell you after having spent the month on the Caribbean Princess with MedallionNet, what we had on the Ruby was definitely not speedy, fast, or reliable. I don't know if they haven't finished the wiring or what, but I couldn't get anything to load while we were in our cabin. I burned through my 150 minutes and hubby's in just two days of trying to check email. No blogging, no doing anything with photos, no surfing anything. It was a bit better in the public areas, but here's how bad it was in the cabin...I tried to do a speed test. Here's the download speed:

And the upload speed? Wouldn't even register!
Until they get whatever issue they have going on fixed, they should be embarrassed to say this ship has MedallionNet.

*Free black coffee (not the crappy-from-syrup kind) was available for free in the International Cafe from 2 am to 6 am. It was self serve. Since hubby couldn't find his old coffee card before we left for this trip, he was up every morning at 5 am for his fix.

*The new carpets in the hallways aren't color-coded. Carpets aren't going to help you figure out port v. starboard when you get off the elevator anymore. At least on this ship, that is.

*Within the first hour onboard, I witnessed some downright mean people when it came to the elevator. Yelling, pushing, and even more yelling. I just stood in the corner with my mouth shut, but geez people are so angry these days. It's a vacation, folks.

*I left my Cruising with Confidence book in the library (this one right here, but the paperback version) like I've been doing on ships lately. I put a book label on the inside cover stating it is donated by the author (me) and asking them to return it the ship's library when they are finished reading it. But as of disembarkation time yesterday the book still hadn't been returned. Guess that's the chance I take.

*I left Encouraging Word Money Pockets all around the ship and I also left them in the Wake Show Box. Our cruise director, Micca, read them on the Wake Show a couple different times. Compared to my 30 days on the Grand where they were only read just twice during all that time, it was nice to have the cruise director on the Ruby read them twice in our short stint on the ship. I've got a whole stack for the Royal, so we'll see if the good vibes continue.

*The Ogden Point Shuttle in Victoria that takes you from the port to the city is now $15 in both US and Canadian dollars. If you have Canadian on you, I suggest you pay with that. With the exchange rate it's a better deal.

*The weather was cool most of the way. Rain, wind, and chilly temperatures. It was quite a bit warmer (and sunnier) in Victoria and Vancouver than in San Diego. Go figure.

Now, off to Alaska on the Royal Princess. While I won't be doing a live from there either, I will be posting the Patters as I go along. Stay tuned.